Rabbi Gershon Albert of Oakland's Beth Jacob Congregation wrote the tune for a new single from the hipster Hasid duo Zusha.
Rabbi Gershon Albert of Oakland's Beth Jacob Congregation wrote the tune for a new single from the hipster Hasid duo Zusha.

New single from hipster Hasid band Zusha features tune by Oakland’s Rabbi Gershon Albert

Rabbi Gershon Albert first sang his “Niggun Hodaah” for the members of Zusha in 2016, when the band spent a weekend as musicians in residence at Beth Jacob, the Modern Orthodox synagogue Albert leads in Oakland.

The infectious, joyful tune is now the latest single from Zusha, released last week on Spotify.

Zusha — the duo of vocalist Shlomo Gaisin and guitarist Zachariah Goldschmiedt — mixes jazz, soul, reggae, folk, EDM and more with Hasidic nigguns (wordless sung melodies) to spectacular effect. Their first album, 2016’s “Kavana,” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s World Albums chart.

Albert wrote “Niggun Hodaah,” which means “Niggun of Gratitude,” in Jerusalem in 2009 or 2010, while “hanging out with a mystically inclined teacher,” he told J.

“It was a time of major transitions in my life, having gone through some difficult experiences in the years before. I had lost my father when I was studying in yeshiva in Israel,” Albert elaborated in an email. “It was very hard to leave that experience and ‘normalize’ into college and life in the U.S., and this song was composed during my first return trip to Israel, sitting in the domed living room of my rebbe of Chasidut [Hasidism] and mysticism. So it was gratitude to Hashem for having overcome times of darkness, to have returned to a place of spiritual growth, and for all the ups and downs in between.”

Zusha, joined by guest bassist Max Jacob, performs at Beth Jacob in Oakland, Jan. 30, 2016. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
Zusha performs at Beth Jacob in Oakland, Jan. 30, 2016. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

He introduced the tune to Zusha when they came to Beth Jacob in 2016. Zusha then played it at their shows for a while, and returned to it in a few recent live performances.

“They reached out to me in the spring and asked if they could do a version of it, and that was super exciting. I’ve been friends with them for a long time. It’s an honor to know that this song will live on with them,” Albert said. “I had recorded an amateur version of it on SoundCloud, but it’s been a long time since I had any aspirations of being a professional musician.”

Albert, who’s led Beth Jacob since 2014, has made a point of introducing new music to the congregation, especially through musician in residence weekends, which have also hosted Eitan Katz and Joey Weisenberg.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is interim associate editor of J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor, and is a member of the board of the American Jewish Press Association. He can be reached at [email protected].